Hundreds participate in first day of early voting

Oct 18, 2020

Hundreds of Wareham voters turned out to vote on Saturday as early voting began for the Nov. 3 election.

In total, 288 people cast their ballots in the auditorium in Town Hall, while many others utilized the dropbox out front to return their mail-in ballot.
Town Clerk Michele Bissonnette said that 78 people voted in the first hour alone. 

“It really is very exciting,” Bissonnette said. She has been looking at past election records, and said she expects turnout to match that of the last hot presidential election in Wareham: Bush vs. Gore in 2000. 

Bissonnette sent out the first 5,700 mail-in ballots on Tuesday, and said they started appearing in voters’ mailboxes on Wednesday. Mail-in ballots can be mailed to Town Hall, returned to the drop box, or dropped off at the Town Clerk’s office. Bissonnette asked voters not to use Sharpie pens, if possible, because those pens bleed through to the other side of the ballot, making them unreadable to the scanner. Those ballots will need to be hand-counted.

All completed early ballots are stored in a locked vault, where they will remain until election day.

To prevent ballots from sitting in the ballot box for too long -- a point of anxiety for some voters -- Bissonnette is emptying the box three times a day, seven days a week, at about 8 a.m., noon, and 8 p.m.

Poll workers are once again able to use Poll Pads -- modified iPads — to check in voters for the first time instead of the traditional clipboard with a printed-out list of the voter rolls.

The system is entirely offline and very secure, Bissonnette said. 

When poll workers enter in a name, a list of voters pops up that shows the voters’ status for the current election. If the voter has requested an absentee ballot, returned a mail-in ballot, or voted in person, that is shown on the screen. 

Voters can even scan their driver’s license, prompting their name and information to pop up instantly, although an ID is not required to vote.

Bissonnette said that the poll pads make record-keeping much faster and more accurate. 

Along the sidewalk, members of the town Democratic Committee held signs for Biden and Harris.

Jane Donahue said that the group had been out front since polls opened at 9 a.m., both to support Biden and to remind drivers that early voting had begun. 

While the majority of drivers who acknowledged the committee honked or otherwise showed support, the group did get its share of jeers and gestures. One remarked that this was a far more contentious race than usual. 

Several of the sign-holders said that the 2016 election woke them up to the importance of politics, which was the “silver lining” of an election they wished had gone the other way.

Early voting will continue through Thursday, Oct. 29 in the auditorium at Town Hall, 54 Marion Road. Voting will be open from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays; from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays; and from 8:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. on Tuesdays. 

There will be no early voting in person on Fridays.